NL: Astros snag wild-card lead

Associated Press
Published July 30, 2005

HOUSTON - Morgan Ensberg, Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio homered, and rookie Wandy Rodriguez had his third straight solid start, leading the Astros past the New York Mets 5-2 Friday night to continue their amazing July run.

Houston won for the 12th time in 13 games and 21st time this month, breaking a club record set in 1976. The Astros also moved into the lead in the wild-card race, passing Washington, which lost to Florida.

After winning their past two games 3-2 with two squeeze bunts and no homers, the Astros came out swinging for the fences. Biggio hit a shot off Mets starter Kris Benson in the first inning, then Berkman added a two-run homer in the third.

"Our pitching has been good," Houston manager Phil Garner said. "You can't say that enough."

Rodriguez shut out the Mets over the first five innings, then seemed to lose his composure in the sixth after a long foul ball by Carlos Beltran. He went from 0-and-2 in the count to walking him, then walked Cliff Floyd, too. Beltran easily stole third when Ensberg wasn't paying attention and failed to cover the bag, then scored on a sacrifice fly by David Wright. Mike Piazza singled to score Floyd.

But Ensberg quickly made amends. After Berkman led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, Ensberg drove his 27th homer into the leftfield bleachers, stretching Houston's lead back to three runs at 5-2.

CUBS 4, D'BACKS 3: Aramis Ramirez had a pinch-hit run-scoring single with one out in the ninth inning to lift host Chicago.

Ramirez's bouncer eluded Diamondbacks third baseman Troy Glaus and trickled into leftfield. Jose Macias raced around from second base and easily beat the throw from Luis Gonzalez for Chicago's fifth win in seven games.

Todd Walker started the Cubs' rally in the ninth with a walk off Brian Bruney. Rookie Matt Murton sacrificed pinch-runner Ronny Cedeno to second, Macias followed with a walk and pinch-hitter Michael Barrett singled to left to drive in the tying run.

Ramirez, who didn't start because of a strained right quad, then knocked a chopper into left and Macias dived head-first into home as the Cubs poured out of the dugout in celebration.

PHILLIES 5, ROCKIES 3: Brett Myers struck out nine to remain unbeaten at Coors Field and Jimmy Rollins had a two-run single in Philadelphia's four-run second.

David Bell had two hits to end a 2-for-18 slump and Myers allowed six hits and three runs, two earned, in 62/3 innings to give Philadelphia consecutive wins over Colorado after a three-game losing streak.

Matt Holliday had three hits, including a two-run homer, for Colorado, which couldn't overcome rare control problems from Jose Acevedo and lost its third straight.

MARLINS 4, NATIONALS 3: Josh Beckett reached 10 wins in a season for the first time, pitching 61/3 innings for host Florida.

Paul Lo Duca doubled home three in the first for the Marlins, who have won three straight. The Nationals have lost have lost 10 consecutive one-run decisions, including the past four games.

Beckett allowed two hits in the first six innings. He struck out eight, walked one and allowed three runs.

BRAVES 2, PIRATES 1: Chipper Jones drove in both Atlanta runs and Horacio Ramirez allowed six hits over eight innings. Left-hander Macay McBride earned his first career save by getting two outs after coming in with the bases loaded and one out.

Trailing 1-0 entering the seventh, the host Braves rallied off starter Dave Williams, with Jones' two-run single capping the inning.

Jay Powell started the ninth. His second pitch sailed 15 feet high and wide of the plate and he fell to the ground writhing in pain. X-rays showed a severe elbow injury, Braves officials said. Powell underwent transplant surgery on the elbow on July 8, 2004.

Pittsburgh scored in the sixth when Jack Wilson came across on a sacrifice fly by Freddy Sanchez.

GIANTS 7, BREWERS 6: Pinch-hitter Ray Durham doubled in the go-ahead runs in San Francisco's five-run eighth for the Giants 11th straight home win.

Jeff Fassero pitched the seventh for the win, his first since May 21. Tyler Walker gave up a solo homer to Brady Clark in the ninth and earned his 18th save.

With the Giants trailing 5-2 in the eighth, Moises Alou walked with one out. Pedro Feliz then hit a two-run homer, his 17th, off Matt Wise. After a walk and a single Julio Santana took over. One out later, Durham doubled to make it 6-5. Omar Vizquel then doubled home Durham.

REDS 8, PADRES 3: Adam Dunn hit two two-run homers, and visiting Cincinnati dropped West-leading San Diego one game below .500. The Padres have lost 10 of 11 overall and 33 of 51 since June 1, when they were 14 games over .500. Amazingly, they still have a two-game lead over Arizona.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Padres are the first team to lead a division this late in a season with a losing record since the Texas Rangers led the AL West at 52-62 on Aug. 11, 1994. That was the day before the players' strike began, wiping out the rest of the season.

Dunn reached 30 homers for the second straight year. He hit 46 last year.

His first shot went an estimated 423 feet to right field and scored Griffey to cap a three-run third. Dunn's second went 387 feet and scored Felipe Lopez during a four-run fifth. Both came off Brian Lawrence.

DODGERS 7, CARDS 5: Ricky Ledee hit a three-run homer, Jeff Kent went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-5 Friday night in their first meeting at Dodger Stadium since last year's playoffs.

Cesar Izturis scored the go-ahead run in the seventh thanks to a mental lapse by Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris (11-4).